Natasha D’Agostino’s first recording as a singer/bandleader wouldn’t normally merit a full review in these pages. But she represents a trend that’s worth exploring. The 26-year-old Canadian is part of an ever-burgeoning class of musician: the college jazz studies graduate (2017) active locally. She’s twice appeared at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
It’s a decent effort, combining self-penned originals with skilfully negotiated standards. Hers is an elfin voice lacking the quality of mischief associated with that term but keen on vocalese and its importance as part of the mix. The company of guitar, bass and drums is accommodating, though it too has something personal to say. Guitarist Blake artfully stays within the leader’s vocal parameters, and neither bassist Rushka nor drummer Arai are given to over-assertion.
Leaping from Academy Towers into the often uncertain waters of a life in jazz demands staying power, and bringing to sometimes ironic lyrics the sound of experience as well as surprise is never a given. But D’Agostino is confident enough, if often tempted to slip into conventional “jazz singer” grooves, which her colleagues are bound to follow. That said, the traditional is never allowed to diminish the honesty of her own charts, such as “Sorrow Song” and “Home”.
Her development should incorporate harder-edged words and melodies as part of the repertoire, and the arrangements should reflect that. She can swing but she needs to swing higher, with complementing ferocity of setting. She needs to make the listener sit up as well as lie back.
Flutter; When Full Daylight Arrives; Angel Eyes; Sorrow Song; Field of Green; I’ve Never Been in Love Before; You Go to My Head; Home; I’ll Be Seeing You (50.59)
D’Agostino (v); David Blake (g); Paul Rushka (b); Bernie Arai (d). Vancouver, 2017.
Update, 24/01/19: Sadly, since the publication of this review, Jazz Journal has been informed that Natasha D’Agostino died in a car accident on 6 January on Highway 99, Richmond, BC.